Press Conference by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida
Tuesday, November 18, 2014, 9:24 a.m. Front Entrance Hall, Prime Minister’s Office
New scientific whaling research program in the Antarctic Ocean
Mr. Fumio Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I understand Mr. Koya Nishikawa, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, will also make an announcement, but following today’s Cabinet Meeting a “New Scientific Whale Research Program in the Antarctic Ocean” was reported to the Prime Minister and was approved. The content of the program will be explained by the officials of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries today.
This program was made by taking into account the standards indicated in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision in March. Today we will submit this new program to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) Scientific Committee, and the program could be amended when judged necessary, based on discussions at the Scientific Committee. Additionally, from here on we intend to explain the new program to the relevant countries and seek their understanding.
Dissolution of the House of Representatives
Fujita, Fuji TV: It appears that the House of Representatives may be dissolved as early as today. As the minister in charge of foreign diplomacy, what do you think the justification for this dissolution and general election is?
Minister Kishida: Regarding the dissolution of the House of Representatives, since last week it has been said that the dissolution is likely to take place, but the final decision rests with the Prime Minister himself, and so I think we must wait for an official announcement from the Prime Minister. I would like to refrain from saying anything ahead of that from the standpoint of a Cabinet minister.
Fujita, Fuji TV: From the standpoint of a faction leader, then, what are your views regarding the course of your actions in response to this, for example?
Minister Kishida: As members of the House of Representatives, it is not unusual for the House to be dissolved at any given time, so it is often said that we have to be “battle ready” at all times. If an election is held, then along with my faction colleagues, I will have to cooperate firmly while preparing for the battle. I intend to pay close attention to dissolution-related developments.
The issue of Chinese coral poaching vessels in the marine area around the Ogasawara Islands
Fujita, Fuji TV: Yesterday the Chief Cabinet Secretary said that poaching vessels of red coral have decreased considerably, from around 200 vessels to 58. Does this suggest that a tougher crackdown by the Chinese side has been successful?
Minister Kishida: The illegal operation of Chinese coral poaching vessels is extremely regrettable, and we have been requesting the cooperation for policing and other measures from the Chinese side. I also raised this issue at the Japan-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting the other day, and I have received an explanation from the Chinese side that it has toughened its policing measures. The Government of Japan strongly urges the Chinese side that consequences are important and achieving concrete results is vital.
Regarding the number of coral vessels, I understand that the number of vessels on November 16 was 58, as you pointed out. This is the situation, but I intend to continue to pay close attention to developments, including the number of vessels.
Fujita, Fuji TV: The foreign ministers’ meeting and summit meeting may have successfully addressed the issue, but does that mean that conversely, prior to that the situation was left uncontrolled? If the number of vessels has declined this much as a result of an action by top-level or central government officials cracking down more sternly, then it raises the question of what exactly was going on up to now.
Minister Kishida: The Chinese side too did say that it was aware of the seriousness of this problem. The Government of Japan has been requesting responses that lead to concrete results. I believe we must keep a close eye on whether or not this will lead to concrete outcomes in the future.
Maritime communication mechanism
Fujita, Fuji TV: This question concerns the Japan-China maritime communication mechanism. You have said you want to commence working-level discussions as soon as possible, but when will that initial contact or liaison begin, and be put to use?
Minister Kishida: It was confirmed at the Japan-China High-Level Consultation on Maritime Affairs the other day that discussion for the maritime communication mechanism will be started. In addition, it was also confirmed at the Japan-China Summit Meeting that consultations would move firmly ahead at the working level. Work is now underway based on that. From the standpoint of preventing unexpected contingencies I believe it is necessary to commence the operation of this mechanism as soon as possible. I too have issued instructions that the preparatory works be expedited. So far it has not been decided when the mechanism will begin operating, but I intend to request that it starts as soon as possible.
Fujita, Fuji TV: I realize that even as a security issue, this is extremely hazardous, but what sort of time span are you envisaging? By the end of this year, for example?
Minister Kishida: This is of course a very important mechanism. No concrete timetable has been decided yet, but it is desirable to commence operation as soon as possible.
Japan-China-Republic of Korea Trilateral Foreign Ministers’ Meeting
Fujita, Fuji TV: This question concerns a Japan-China-Republic of Korea trilateral foreign ministers’ meeting. I understand that the ROK side has said the meeting needs to be held as early as this year. What is the outlook for that, and is an agenda for the meeting being worked out?
Minister Kishida: I proposed a Japan-China-ROK foreign ministers’ meeting to Mr. Wang Yi, Foreign Minister of China, at the Japan-China foreign ministers’ meeting. I understand at the ASEAN Plus Three meeting the other day Prime Minister Abe also proposed to hold the meeting, and that ROK President Park Geun-hye also made a positive remark. I understand that the ROK side, as the Chair country, also said it would make efforts to hold the meeting by the end of the year. I hope that positive efforts will be made, centering on the ROK, as the Chair country, toward holding the meeting. The Government of Japan, from the standpoint that maintaining dialogues is important, has been pointing the importance of holding Japan-China-ROK trilateral summit meetings and foreign ministers’ meetings. And from that standpoint we welcome that such positive efforts are taking place.
Fujita, Fuji TV: At this point no specific schedule has been set, is that correct?
Minister Kishida: Yes, things are at the stage I just mentioned.
Fujita, Fuji TV: Will this be affected by Japan’s domestic situation, by which I mean the dissolution of the House of Representatives and an election?
Minister Kishida: The House of Representatives dissolution is not yet officially decided. We are making efforts through diplomatic channels with the importance of this meeting in mind.
Japan-ROK Director-General level talks
Nakagawa, Yomiuri Shimbun: How is coordination going in regards to holding Japan-ROK Director-General level talks to discuss issues of concern between Japan and the ROK?
Minister Kishida: Regarding the Director-General level talks, I am aware that in the conversation between Prime Minister Abe and President Park the other day they shared the view that Director-General level talks will proceed. I believe that Director-General level talks should move ahead. I have not heard that a specific date has been set yet.
Nakagawa, Yomiuri Shimbun: Is there a prospect of the talks being held this month?
Minister Kishida: My understanding is that coordination is underway toward holding the talks, but I have not yet received a report of a specific date and time.
The Gubernatorial Election in Okinawa
Toiyama, Ryukyu Shimpo: The Prefectural Gubernatorial Election in Okinawa was held on November 16 and Mr. Takeshi Onaga, who is opposing to the relocation of the Futenma Air Station to Henoko, won the election for the first time. Based on this election result, have Okinawa-related ministers met to analyze the election result and to discuss how to respond to it in the future?
Minister Kishida: The Government is fully aware of the result of the election, but with regards to your question, ministers have not met to discuss the result so far. If this sort of development occurs then I imagine that the Prime Minister’s Office would be the one to consider it, but I have not heard anything at the current time.
Toiyama, Ryukyu Shimpo: Mr. Onaga has stated his intention to come to Tokyo and express his opposition to the relocation of the Futenma Air Station to Henoko to the Government. Can I ask for your response to this?
Minister Kishida: There has been no change at all to the Government’s policy of reducing the burden placed on Okinawa and removing the danger posed by the Futenma Air Station as early as possible. I imagine that we will have appropriate opportunities to hear the opinions of the new Governor in the future, but as yet I have not heard anything specific.
Japan-ROK Director-General level talks
Makita, Kyodo Press: I would like to confirm again a point regarding the director-general-level talks with the ROK. Are you heading in the direction of holding them within the month?
Minister Kishida: A specific date has not yet been decided. I think that Japan and the ROK are positively examining the holding of the talks, but a specific date is not decided, therefore whether they will be held within the month is not decided.
Comfort women issue
Matsui, Asahi Shimbun: There have been reports of a request from Japan’s Embassy in the United States to a U.S. publishing company to correct information on the comfort women issue in textbooks being used in Los Angeles, the United States. Can you tell us the current situation?
Minister Kishida: I heard a request was made.
Matsui, Asahi Shimbun: When was that?
Minister Kishida: I don’t have the details at hand at the moment.